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Adventures in Tuning

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  • Adventures in Tuning

    Hello all. I've just spent the most interesting few days servicing my kit, and I wanted to share it with you all.

    Well, it all started with a trip to my local drum shop. After tiring of constantly muffling my snare drum with my key case, I bought a Cannon muffler. Very good product, by the way. Slap it on, tighten it down. Great. I'm jamming away, when I realize, you know what? My drums don't sound the same under my headphones as they do with my ears. And after seeing a clinic where this guy's kit just THUNDERED, I decided to seee if I could put some more oomph in my toms.

    I decided to take a cue from DW: find the natural pitch of the shell, and tune to that. So I took all my toms off the rack, took off the heads, got out my tuning tools and my pitch pipe. Pitched my shell, which took a while, because I think the hardware interefered with some of the vibrations. But I wasn't about to strip the hardware. So I pitched the shell, it was a G. And I set to tuning. Well, apparently, the heads didn't lke being tuned to a G, because if I went to the low G, the head had no tension in it, and if I went to the high G, I'd overtighten the head. So I settled for a different pitch and all was well until I got to my rack toms.

    Using my bastardized version of Timbre-Matching, I found that my three toms were a natural whole tone interval away from each other, and that causes som really nasty dissonance if you play those notes on a keyboard, so I improvised with the pitches again. I don't know what I did, but it was completely ass-backwards from what should have been done. At one point, my 12" tom had a higher pitch than my 10" tom!

    After thoroughly exasperating myself and being mad enough to chew through the shells, I sent an E-mail to a teacher of mine for advice and proceeded to spend the day doing other things. However, like most of us, I can't just leave my kit in sonic pieces, so I thought I'll just see if I can get some usable tones out of this. Idon't care if they sound studio-quality anytmore at this point, I just want to be able to play. So I changed my strategy: instead of pitching to a note or something like that, I took it very simple; tune the top head for pitch, the bottom for sustain. And it worked. They sound okay. Good seperation, proper intervals. Again they don't sound studio-quality, and there's probably some low end I could put in, but I'm going to wait until my teacher responds to do that.

    The old Keep It Simple, Stupid! rule comes back into play. As usual, I over complicated things and made myself nuts over it. There's probably a reason it works for DW and not for me. On the other hand, now I know that this method doesn't work. I won't aggrivate myself doing it again. Something to be said for that.

    Hope you enjoyed my little trip through madness. A good day to you all.


  • #2
    My man,

    Tuning can really drive you mad... usually I just end up going for lowest possible tuning on the resonant head and a few turns higher on the batter.... evening out and going through them all... bit different with snare and BD but it works...

    Be cool/Mr Harley


    • #3
      Great Reference Source

      I strongly recommend Bob Gatzen's video Drum Tuning, Sound and Design for anyone who really wants to understand what is going on in the tuning process.

      In my experience it's one of the best systems for tuning drums, allowing a lot of variation in the final result, depending on what you are going for.

      As it happens, I use DW's for my A kit. I found that the timbre stamp value they assign is useful to a point. Again, it all depends on the sound you are trying to get. I tune for a "big" sound for rock and blues, and a higher, more ringing sound for jazz (easier to get good stick action on the toms). The DW recommended system works for the latter if your sizes are properly related (and timbre matched).

      The one thing I've found that helps more than anything is getting even tension around the head. To that end I rely on a Drum Dial to get it in as quickly as possible.

      And you may want to have a good drum tech check your bearing edges and shell for any little anomilies that might prevent you from getting the most out of your kit.

      Just a few thoughts form the old guy,


      • #4
        Great call OldGuy! Bob Gatzen's video is great. Excellent point on the bearing edges too. Remember, you can tuna fish......
        V-Custom w Roland TD-8 and and Alesis DM5, DIY edrums


        • #5
          I thought they CAME tuned ?

          Now I have to get one of those key thingies, damn.
          The original Gig Pig.